GOLF

US Open: England’s Matt Fitzpatrick returns to Brookline, Massachusetts

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Matt Fitzpatrick’s best result at a US Open is 12th in 2018 and 2019
Appointment: June 16-19 Venue: Brookline Country Club, MA
Cover: Live radio and text commentary over the four days on the BBC Sport website and Radio 5 Sports Extra

As soon as it was announced that the 2022 US Open would be played at the Country Club in Brookline, the date was circled in Matt Fitzpatrick’s diary.

The 27-year-old from Sheffield arrives in Boston looking for his first major title and luckily he is in good form for his professional life.

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He enjoyed an impressive first round en route to a top-10 finish at last week’s Canadian Open, which returned after a two-year absence and saw Rory McIlroy successfully defend the title he won in 2019.

In his most recent major appearance, at the US PGA Championship last month, Fitzpatrick was in the final duo on the final day for the first time in his career. A messy fence 73 meant he missed the play-off, which was won by Justin Thomas.

But this week Southern Hills finally confirmed he’s now set to compete for the game’s biggest prizes, nine years after clinching one of the most prestigious titles in the game’s unpaid ranks.

And that’s why Brookline is so special to the South Yorkshireman. It was there that he celebrated his US Amateur victory by beating American Oliver Goss 4&3 in the final.

With the win, he became just the second Englishman after Harold Hilton, 102 years earlier, to lift the venerable trophy.

Fitzpatrick still loves the place and is now looking forward to pitting his ever-improving pro skills against the 7,254-yard-par-70 course this week.

“As soon as I knew it was going to be there it was always on my radar,” he told BBC Sport.

“I’ve had success there before, I love being there, I love playing there and it’s just there for me, but I’m not going to go there and put extra pressure on myself.

“I come [have] that little bit of extra confidence, knowing that I’ve already succeeded.”

Fitzpatrick remains a relatively lightweight figure by professional gaming standards. But he added distance from the tee, averaging 296 yards, to a repertoire he was already known for – his approach game and efficiency on and around the greens.

The fact that he will be competing for one of golf’s most prestigious trophies and everything that goes with becoming a great champion will not be lost on Fitzpatrick this week.

But that wasn’t the case when he last visited Brookline in 2013. “I didn’t really know what happened with winning the US Amateur,” he admitted.

“I just didn’t understand how important it was. I look back and I didn’t know the two finalists would be invited to Augusta (for the Masters), I didn’t really know the winner had the US Open, Augusta and the Open.

“It was just a bit of a whirlwind all week. I was really so stupid. Ignorance was bliss, it was just a big help in being successful.”

The experiences and memories of this week impact how the seven-time European Tour winner approaches what is the 29th major tournament of his career.

“We had a hotel until the quarter-finals,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “My dad didn’t think I would go any further than that, so we checked that out and then I won again.

“And for the semi-final and the final, we ended up staying with a family in Boston and we’ve become really good friends since then, so I’m going to stick with them.

“There will be me and my parents and them and their children too, so it will be like the good old days.

“I’ve stayed at the house several times since winning the US Amateur, so it’s a cozy place and I think it’s a nice little thing to know where you’re going.

“You’ve been there before, you know what it’s like and it’s just much nicer than an unfamiliar hotel when you’re alone. Sometimes I like it, some weeks I don’t, but especially this week, I think it’s quite enjoyable.”

Fitzpatrick also thinks his experience in Southern Hills last month will stand him in good stead for this week’s tilt to major glory.

“It was a great week at the end, regardless of the outcome,” he said.

“Having this experience in the final group was the first time for me. I felt like I came out of the week disappointed that I didn’t do it.”

An evenly matched final would have given him the Wanamaker Trophy after a brilliant 67 on Saturday secured his place in the final duet with Chile’s Mito Pereira.

“I think Saturday was one of my best days on a golf course in a long time,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I got off to such a bad start and to fight back and shoot what I did, birdie the last one, I was really, really proud of the way my attitude was and the way I played.

“I just stayed patient all day and that was a big plus as well. I felt like I was doing it when I needed to. It was a big thing.”

These are precisely the qualities required to win a US Open. He is keen to become the first Briton to win the US national championship since Justin Rose in 2013.

It’s a year that obviously resonates with Fitzpatrick and his experiences could then impact his chances of winning the men’s third major of the 2022 season.

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